Special Report

America's Most Segregated Cities


To identify America’s most segregated cities, 24/7 Wall St. calculated the percentage of metropolitan area black residents who live in predominantly black census tracts — statistical subdivisions typically with populations of 1,200 to 8,000 people. The greater the share of black metro residents living in the area’s racially homogenous neighborhoods, the greater the degree of segregation. We only considered census tracts with at least 500 residents in the 100 largest metropolitan areas. Population data are based on five-year estimates through 2014 from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. For the purpose of this story, we only considered segregation of white and black populations.

Because a certain level of racial diversity is necessary for segregation to be measured with confidence, only 71 of the 100 largest metro areas could be compared. The remaining 29 were not considered because they do not contain any predominantly black census tracts.

We also considered other, widely used methods of measuring segregation: the dissimilarity and exposure indices. The dissimilarity index estimates what percentage of the population would have to relocate to achieve total integration. The exposure index estimates how likely members of two racial groups are to come in contact with one another other.

While racial segregation was the primary focus of our analysis, segregation by income is also an important component. Our analysis included the share of a metro area’s population living in extreme poverty — census tracts with poverty rates higher than 40%. Examining these figures by race allowed us to identify the share of a metro area’s white population, for example, that lives in areas with extreme poverty. This portion of our analysis excluded tracts with fewer than 500 residents, as well as tracts where more than 50% of the population is enrolled in either undergraduate or graduate school.

We also reviewed median household income, poverty rates, educational attainment rates, and homeownership rates among black and white populations in each metro area from the ACS. All data are five-year estimates. We also included 2014 unemployment rates by race from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

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